I am not Italian, my husband is, so traveling in Italy for me opens opportunities that feel more local, less touristy. He likes me to see Italy from the lens of an Italian. I love that.
When we visited Venice, we didn’t stay in Venice. We stayed on the Lido or in Italian Lido di Venezia. The Lido is one of two barrier islands in the Venetian Lagoon with a coastline on the Adriatic Sea. We explored some of Venice so I would get a sense of the city, but we really spent more time visiting the nearby islands. One day we decided to go to Murano, because you must see the glass! But we added another island to our day trip, Burano.
Visiting both islands in one day is completely doable if you start early. Murano is busy, a bit more touristy than Burano, but lovely. Burano, well what can I say, the colors, the lace, the ambiance, it’s a fairytale experience.
We started our day by taking a vaporetto (Venice’s water bus system) from the Lido (you can learn more about the Lido in my article 5 Reasons to Stay on the Lido) to Venice then a connecting
vaporetto on to Murano. When we landed in Murano it was mid-morning. Murano's reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and the destruction of the city's mostly wooden buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their furnaces to Murano in 1291. Murano glass is still associated with Venetian glass. To protect the original Murano Glass art from foreign markets, the most famous glass factories on the island have a trademark that certifies glass made products on the island of Murano.
We went to a glass blowing demonstration. Highly recommend doing that, it really helps understand what makes this artform so special.
Then we strolled. The glass work is everywhere, from art installations in piazzas to decorations in restaurants. And the shops! All I can say is if I could have bought as many items as possible that I loved, our bank account would have been drained. Instead, I settled for a small dish that sits on our coffee table to this day. The multi-colored mosaic pattern of the glass allows light to bounce off it, and every time I glance at it, I think of our day trip.
We stopped at a lovely restaurant overlooking a canal, the railing alongside our table was adorned with beautiful Murano glass flowers. One thing I love about Italy is that even if you are strolling and getting lost in the moment you can just stop at a restaurant, pretty much any restaurant, and have an amazing, delicious meal. That is just want we did, randomly stopped, enjoyed the sunny day and a delectable lunch.
On to Burano. Burano is one of the farther islands, so many people don’t take the time. Rethink that the next time you are in Venice. As we disembarked from the vaporetto, it was the colors. The buildings on the island are brighter and more vibrant than you can imagine. It is like the residents took all the brightest colors they could find in a Pantone Book and painted their houses. Historically a fishing village, the story goes that the tradition of the brightly painted houses came from fishermen painting their homes in the bright colors so they could spot their homes even through thick fog as they sailed back with their catch. A color-coding system was subsequently established, and the pigments have stuck with families for generations.
Current residents on the island are required to send a request to the local government informing them when they plan to repaint their home or business. In return, the authorities will inform the resident which colors are permitted in different areas. The regulated system serves a purpose since the brightly colored buildings are a main reason why the village of nearly 3000 welcomes so many visitors each year.
Beyond the color, there is lace. In the 1500s, lace produced on the island of Burano became some of the most highly coveted lace in Europe. As lace began to lose its place is fashion at the end of the eighteenth century, lacemaking on Burano continued to endure as mothers taught daughters and granddaughters the artform. Even today, the artform is done by hand, a tradition handed down from one generation to another or from the old lacemaking school.
We stopped in several shops, strolled, and took pictures. One shop that drew us in with their lovely display of lace work was Merletti “dalla Olga”. Those of you who know me know that I have a “thing” for scarves. No surprise when I looked at my husband as I tried on a scarf, as he likes to say…saying with my eyes, “I really want this.” Yes, we bought it along with a few hand-stitched handkerchiefs for our girls. Needless to say, my lace scarf has been lovingly worn for almost every special holiday and event I have been at since we were there in 2015.
As the light began to fade, we caught a vaporetto back to Venice and ended our day with one more unexpected journey. When we landed on Venice, we took the connecting vaporetto in the wrong direction and ended up circling the island. When we realized our mistake, we sat back and decided it was as if we were taking a boat tour. The sun was setting, the lights of Venice began to sparkle, and the water glistened in the light of the twilight sky.
A storybook ending to a perfect daytrip.